Sustainable Seafood and the Fight Against Fish Fraud

In March the San Diego food community took time to raise awareness about a subject near and dear to the hearts of many San Diegans, the sustainability of our oceans. Events like the Sustainable Seafood Gala and Sustainable Seafood Week create awareness and promote sustainable fishing practices to chefs, distributors, seafood lovers and fisherman alike. However the issue extends beyond the task of learning to make smarter choices about what we pull from our oceans. A recent study conducted by Oceana brought to light widespread fraud in the mislabeling of seafood in restaurants, supermarkets and distributors. One local restaurant Harney Sushi is taking a stand against just this issue and has been working closely with NOAA and Scripps Institute of Oceanography to develop new standards in sustainability. Recently Harney Sushi in Oceanside invited students from The Ocean Discovery Institute for a Q&A with Executive Sushi Chef Robert Ruiz.

Chef Ruiz took students on a tour of the restaurant and fielded questions about efforts being made to help ensure sustainable seafood practices at Harney Sushi. Chef Ruiz explained how at Harney all fish are purchased whole and inspected by him personally so he can confirm the type of fish received is indeed what they purchased. He also explained to the students how to test for fish freshness by inspecting the body appearance, clarity of the eyes, smell and feel of the fish received.

He also discussed the restaurants innovative new QR code program. When plating sushi each fish is labeled with a QR code printed on edible rice paper. This code can be scanned by diners and will provide information about the sustainability of the fish being consumed.

At the conclusion of the event students left with samples of fish being served at Harney that day. The samples will be taken back to the Ocean Discovery lab and tested by the students in order to confirm the DNA of the fish is accurate.

Programs such as Ocean Discovery not only provide valuable education for our community’s youth but as demonstrated by this event play an important role in furthering San Diego’s efforts to promote sustainable seafood practices protecting both consumers and our precious oceans.